Hefty 10: Digest + Prefuse73Mixtape

With a distinctive trio of new releases, John Hughes' Hefty Records imprint marks its 10th year of operation with a wealth of ultra-fine 'future roots' sounds. First up is Hefty 10 Digest, whose 70-minute opening disc includes catalogue highlights from roster artists (Slicker, Telefon Tel Aviv, Savath + Savalas, and others) and whose second is an hour-long Prefuse 73 mixtape that blends previously released tracks with unreleased material. Following that opening salvo, the Chicago label is issuing two separate volumes under the common name History Is Bunk: Collaborations, Reinterpretations and New Compositions. Featuring new artists alongside remixes of roster artists by friends of the label (Dabrye, Jimmy Edgar, Jan Jelinek), the discs' twenty songs look forward with material by new recruits like Plus Device and Spanova.

The non-chronological opening Digest disc is a downtempo collection on the whole, more designed for a lazy Sunday morning than an ecstasy-ridden Saturday night—perhaps Hughes wanted to offset the mixtape style of disc two. Nothing wrong with de-emphasizing banging cuts, though, especially when the soulful sparkle of Telefon Tel Aviv's “Fahrenheit Fair Enough” opens the collection so marvelously, the song deftly merging intricate electronic patterning with Rhodes and guitar melodies (Josh Eustis and Charlie Cooper also contribute the punch-funk boogie of “My Week Beats Your Year,” featuring a sweetly blasé vocal from L'Altra's Lindsay Anderson). Hughes himself is all over the place, whether under his Slicker alias (check out the seriously deep soul-funk of “Knock Me Down Girl”) or given name (driving microhouse in “Frustrache”). The label's jazzier side is represented too by way of trombonist Phil Ranelin's “Vibes From The Tribe,” all funky horn lines and Rhodes burble, and the flute-laden “Wife” (a Prefuse 73 'Pieces of Detroit' mix). Broadening the disc's range, Beneath Autumn Sky (Smaze aka Conrad Newholmes and DJ Zane 3) and Ilium add hip-hop sample-stutter and post-rock respectively.

Admittedly, the disc's imperfect. The languid groove with which Scott Herren begins his Savath + Savalas track “F Ride + Blues,” for example, bodes well but the constant breakdowns ultimately prove distracting; the delectably beautiful closer “Folk Song For Cello,” however, more than compensates for whatever dissatisfaction the earlier track induces.

Anything but a stereotypical pumping DJ set, Herren's Prefuse 73 mixtape is a different animal altogether but who would expect otherwise? Largely eschewing boom-bap, he slows the beat (Slicker's “Black Doesn't See Blue”), funks it up (Some Water And Sun's “Snowbreaker”), wrestles it to the ground, and in general broaches the Hefty material with the same experimental, collage-oriented fervor he brings to his own material. The disc exudes a more a free-flowing, improv sensibility, with bits by Eliot Lipp (“Nokia”), L'Altra (“A Day Between”), and Telefon Tel Aviv (fittingly, the dreamy “Sound in a Dark Room” closes the album with a TTA song as striking as its opener) bobbing to the surface throughout, sometimes simultaneously (Some Water And Sun's “Ah Oh” crossing paths with “Map of What is Effortless”), plus makes a mid-mix cinematic stop at Hughes' Scarlet Diva soundtrack. Don't miss El-P's scalding remix of Phil Ranelin's “Black Destiny” but try to ignore T.Raumschmiere's ugly “Variokoppler.” Despite such imperfections, Herren's mix and the two-disc set as a whole constitute a more than sweet overture to the two-volume History is Bunk sets.

April 2006